Birminghams Virtual Power Plant

A small business that has created the UK’s largest “virtual power plant” says it will be capable of powering the cities of Birmingham and Leeds in three years time.

Called Limejump, the plant collects supply from small generators, such as from farmers that have solar panels or are producing biogas. However, the business also pays users to reduce their consumption at busy times.

Two former analysts at energy giant Centrica decided to being the project last year.

The business is based in Waterloo, in central London, and was created to let firms benefit from the National Grid’s schemes to manage supply and demand.

Co-owner Erik Nygard said: “At Centrica we realised that customers couldn’t access that market. It was managed in bundles by the big energy guys. If at half time in a match everyone in England flicks on their kettle, demand goes through the roof. Now the National Grid can come to us and say ‘can you help us by having your businesses turn down demand?’”

Limejump will pay businesses and individuals to cut their energy consumption for short periods. Nygard is enthusiastic about the idea and says “if businesses or households understand they are part of something new and know they can get paid they will enable a green society”.

In regards to where they get their energy, Nygard said: “Farmers often have food waste that can generate electricity. We have 50 or 60 individual generators. It’s exactly the same as the Uber taxi service. It uses excess capacity everywhere.”

Although he admits that in the future the big six energy suppliers will probably want to buy out his firm, he said he is more interested in going “head to head”.

In order to fund their operation Limejump recently raised £1.4 million from the Angel CoFund and JamJar, the investment company set up by the creators of Innocent Drinks.

Another investor in the project is Passion Capital, the venture capital firm led by Eileen Burbidge of Tech City UK.

Nygard is please with the companies that are funding his project.

“It’s good for us because we are trying to disrupt the energy market with tech, and these are tech backers,” he said.

The Federation of Small Businesses has previously raised concerns that power companies are failing to advise small firms on how to cut their energy consumption.